I (Doug) started out kind of opposed to this idea. I’ll have to admit, in some ways, it’s growing on me a bit. I want to like it. But I’m still having reservations about a new way to see the world. Check it out at…


Then please give us your take on the project. As for me, I want to love this approach. It would be totally fun to see the world geographically again (like we used to back in the 70’s). It would be *much* easier to organize our outreaches. We could have regional people who actually had *regions* again! But, alas, I’m having trouble. Here are some of my concerns (below). Can you please help me out?

*** “missing people” — With the 24:14 Initiative, if I understand it correctly, sometimes they just focus on, say, the 3 largest people groups in a particular Omega Zone. Just can’t help but feel like this bypasses the “lost sheep” theology of Jesus. It seems to *invite* the fact that people groups will be ignored or ‘missed.’ So each Omega Zone coordinator would have to be ultra-concerned about that.
*** ‘too complicated’ — Determining Omega Zones just seems unfairly biased or complicated to me. With “people group thinking,” we just let the people group determine the polygon where they live. Plain and simple. If they’re scattered across a wide area, we try to cover the entire wide area. Omega Zones, however, set the area (sometimes rather arbitrarily).
*** “mixed data sets” — I’m no expert, but it seems that the 24:14 model has mixed IMB and JP people group data to the point that — it’s impossible to tell where they got what. It would be less confusing to me just to stick to one standard. That would also make it easier to refresh.
*** “spreadsheet weakness” — There’s no way to represent the complexity of an Omega Zone with a spreadsheet. To me, it just plain … falls short.
*** “Western” — The whole thing reminds me of the failed “MPTA’s” that Campus Crusade tried to use around 1989. The fad lasted around 3 years because — it wasn’t based on the *data*. It was based on outside, imposed boundaries. Anything like that is, in my opinion, destined to be short-lived. I’m picturing Global South workers trying to understand why this boundary, why that boundary.
*** “Country-level data” — But the worst curse of the entire data set is that the researchers are using country level data to classify the Omega Zone as “World A, B, or C.” As a result, it’s pretty obvious that there are huge conflicts in India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and maybe even Nepal and Burma/Myanmar.
*** “Population limitation skews boundaries” — Because the originators were trying to create Zones with a certain population, they were inconsistent in how existing geo-political boundaries were utilized. You’re aware we have work in Arunachal Pradesh, I believe. Just look at that Zone, for example. And check Balochistan (Pakistan). Sometimes it uses district boundaries. Sometimes it doesn’t. Because it was an artificial restriction. And because these zones don’t exist outside this research, we can’t verify or draw comparisons — even with, say, U.N. data or Wycliffe stuff. Only the people who charter this approach will be able to tabulate results. To me, the entire world of researchers have basically said, “How many people live in this people group or city?” and then they’ve let the answer be the answer. What in the world are they thinking by trying to split up reality — and why? It doesn’t make it easier for Zume to work in a certain area. Because once a particular group of implementers get going in a certain ethnic group, the Zume strategy can proceed without change throughout the rest of that *language* or *ethnic* group (as opposed to just …. within an artificial zone).
*** “Limited use” — This model just isn’t being used anywhere else to speak of, in my opinion. It isn’t even used as a standard within YWAM itself! I just spent time with a bunch of YWAM workers and they aren’t at *all* focused on this data set.
*** “Ignores Science” — Even the idea of using census tracts ignores the reality of what’s on the ground. Last weekend, I watched a prayer focus try to use census tracts as a basis for sending out prayer teams. It was insanity. It created divisions that don’t exist on the ground and imposed unnecessary limits on real neighborhoods. Someone in some office in Washington, DC, might have thought those made sense for a particular purpose — and maybe for that purpose they did — but these pray-ers were unnecessarily hampered by thinking they had to pray “the Zume way.” It was a crazy restriction that resulted in people not seeing the reality of who *lives* in that census tract. Omega Zones are even *more* insane around the world because they aren’t even as established nor as consistent as census tracts are.

As a result of these issues and more, I just can’t get excited about these yet. So please … help me work through this. When I asked one educator/trainer, whom I really really trust, he responded, like this:

“The current state of missions has led to rapid progress in terms of engagement of people groups, but very little in terms of making any kind of serious dent among unreached peoples. Many agencies and organizations have deployed people among unreached peoples somewhere but most have not really been using approaches that would multiply disciples and churches. It seems as if in many cases, presence is the goal, and that includes presence somewhere rather than everywhere. For example, in some people groups, there are a few people serving in the major cities, yet the vast majority of towns and rural areas in the country have no work at all.”

“Using the 4K system as a base does not preclude approaching things from a people group perspective within a geographic area. It does ensure that people everywhere have access to the gospel. The 4K research breaks down the major people groups represented in each of the 4,000 zones. It has about 65,000 entries so that is more than 16 people groups per zone. They divide up each zone into smaller districts when needed. Geography and ethnolinguistics need not be an either/or proposition. For us to really do what needs to be done, we need to address both. Note that “every creature” in Mark and the “Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and ends of the earth” in Acts both have a primarily geographic view to balance the “every people, tribe, tongue and nation” view in Matthew. If we have people in every place that are taking an ethnolinguistic approach in that place, we will be getting somewhere.”

What do you think? Does that sway your thinking? We’d love to hear back. Just click “Comment” following the web version of this item and help me learn to love this new paradigm. Thanks, in advance, for any help you can give.